Falcons 34 Doncaster 10

Friday 10 January 2020

They were made to work hard for it, but Newcastle Falcons maintained their unbeaten start to the season by taking the full five points at home to Doncaster Knights on Friday.

Leading 15-3 at half-time in their Greene King IPA Championship clash, the four-try bonus point arrived just a minute into the second half as the Falcons recorded their 14th successive victory.

A score-less opening 15 minutes had seen Doncaster enjoying their fair share of ball-in-hand, the Yorkshiremen keeping Newcastle’s defensive line honest but finding themselves continually driven backwards by the line-speed and organisation of the Falcons rearguard.

The Knights nonetheless took the lead when Sam Olver’s long-range penalty bisected the uprights with distance to spare, Newcastle’s early misery compounded when lock Darren Barry departed injured after just quarter of an hour’s action.

The league leaders began to exert a greater degree of dominance thereafter but struggled to turn it into points, kicking three penalties to the corner without return.

On one occasion a crafty front move looked to have yielded a try in the left corner only for it to be ruled out for obstruction, while another foray saw Adam Radwan going close in the right corner from Tom Arscott’s grubber kick.

Sonatane Takulua looked to have scored against the base of the post from a close-range ruck but unsighted referee Hamish Smales could not award the score, and even when Arscott looked to have put Radwan through a hole the visitors scrambled well to keep their clean sheet in tact.

The pressure and the incessant red-zone penalties had to tell eventually, however, and that moment came on 35 minutes when skipper George McGuigan scored an unconverted try in the left corner from a catch and drive.

The Knights then lost flanker Wian Conradie to the sin bin after the incredible patience of the offcials finally snapped, with the resulting line-out bringing a second unconverted driving maul try for McGuigan in the left corner.

Try number three almost arrived in the dying embers of the half when Arscott was held up over the line after hitting a lovely short angle off Takulua, but Takulua himself delivered the score from the resulting five-metre scrum when he powered over from the base.

That handed the Falcons a 15-3 half-time lead, and they wrapped up the four-try bonus point less than a minute after the resumption when Adam Radwan flew into the right corner.

Takulua knocked on over the try-line from a quick tap as the pressure continued, an ill-disciplined Knights side continuing to infringe time and time again inside their own half, but they had no answer when Gary Graham crashed over on a big latch carry near the posts.

Flood converted, the home side reduced to 14 men on 65 minutes when Sean Robinson was sent to the sin bin, and the extra man told as Matt Challinor scored a Doncaster try amid a heap of bodies down the left.

But it was not going to change the outcome with the home side so far in front, Radwan adding try number six with the last play of the game as he picked the pocket of Doncaster's last man from close range, taking advantage of some sluggish play to claw in a bouncing ball.

Hodgson converted from the left touchline, Newcastle's promotion train rolling past the 14-game mark.

Newcastle Falcons: 15 Tom Arscott, 14 Adam Radwan, 13 George Wacokecoke, 12 Gareth Owen (Ben Stevenson, 56, Michael Young, 76), 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Toby Flood (Joel Hodgson, 68), 9 Sonatane Takulua; 1 Trevor Davison (Sam Lockwood, 68), 2 George McGuigan (captain, Jamie Blamire, 68), 3 Logovi'i Mulipola (Mark Tampin, 60), 4 Darren Barry (Greg Peterson, 15), 5 Sean Robinson, 6 Will Welch, 7 John Hardie (Nemani Nagusa, 76), 8 Gary Graham.

Falcons scorers - Tries: George McGuigan 2, Sonatane Takulua, Adam Radwan 2, Gary Graham. Conversions: Toby Flood, Joel Hodgson.

Doncaster Knights: 15 Steve McColl, 14 Howard Packman, 13 Lloyd Hayes, 12 Charlie Foley, 11 Tyson Lewis, 10 Sam Olver (Kyle Evans, 40), 9 Tom James: 1 Marc Thomas (Colin Quigley, 70), 2 Will Holling (George Edgson, 56), 3 Andrew Foster (Joe Sproston, 56), 4 Matt Challinor (captain), 5 Rory Pitman, 6 Tom Calladine (Fotu Lokotui, 57), 7 Wian Conradie (Morgan Eames, 70), 8 Ollie Stedman.

Knights scorers – Tries: Matt Challinor. Conversions: Charlie Foley. Penalties: Sam Olver.

Referee: Hamish Smales. Attendance: 4,820.

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